Feature

Female circumcision: A U.S. version?

The American Association of Pediatrics says that American doctors should be allowed to perform a limited version of female circumcision so that immigrants will be dissuaded from sending their daughters abroad for the operation.

The physician’s oath begins “First, do no harm,” said Taina Bien-Aimé in HuffingtonPost.com, but the American Association of Pediatrics seems to have forgotten it. As a group dedicated to children’s welfare, the AAP should strenuously oppose female genital mutilation—the ancient practice in some African and Middle Eastern nations of cutting off most of a young girl’s clitoris and labia, so she does not experience sexual pleasure. Yet the AAP recently announced that American doctors should be allowed to perform a limited version of this nightmarish surgery—merely “nicking” girls’ genitals to draw a drop of blood—in hopes that it might dissuade some immigrants in the U.S. from sending their daughters back to their home countries to be mutilated in earnest. This wrongheaded idea has sparked “international outrage,” and rightly so. American doctors should be working to end the nightmare of female genital mutilation around the world, not performing some version of it themselves and thus lending it legitimacy.

Of course FGM is abhorrent, said Emily Yoffe in Slate.com. But put yourself in the shoes of a young immigrant girl from a family that is going to insist that you undergo this ancient ritual, one way or another. Would you rather be sent to Africa to have your labia cut off and your clitoris removed with a shard of broken glass and no anesthetic? Or would you prefer to be sent to a licensed U.S. doctor to have him extract “a physically insignificant drop of blood” that satisfies your culture’s ritual requirements? It’s all very well to stand on principle, but the victims of that purity will be thousands of young girls facing the agony of mutilation and a lifetime of ensuing sexual and medical problems.

When it comes to treating female sexuality as an evil to be destroyed, said blogger “Jenn Q. Public” in FrontPageMag.com, no pragmatic compromise is morally acceptable. Should the U.S. accept wife-beating among immigrants as a “less extreme” version of the “honor killings” some cultures sanction? “What’s a little broken skin as long as we’re avoiding ‘greater harm?’” That’s the kind of warped thinking that comes from respecting other cultures’ traditional practices, regardless of how abhorrent they are, said Andrew Sullivan in TheAtlantic.com. Forcing nonessential surgery onto children, “even if it is just a cut or a nick, is a form of barbarism.” No civilized society can condone it.

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